Avoiding IoT Failure
It’s tempting to assume that better technology always prevails—and that better technology assembled well achieves outstanding results and maximum return on investment every time. In reality, a complex array of factors contributes to project success. Within the IoT realm, where dozens and sometimes hundreds of factors and systems collide and intersect, the challenges can be multiplied exponentially.
A 2017 study conducted by Cisco offers some perspective on this issue. It reports that 60 percent of IoT initiatives stall at the proof-of-concept stage and only 26 percent of companies have embarked on an IoT initiative that they considered a complete success. “It’s not for lack of trying,” notes Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager for IoT and applications at Cisco.
How can integrators avoid key pitfalls and achieve more consistent success? Cisco, which released the findings at an IoT World Forum event, examined key issues based on a survey of 1,845 global IT and business decision makers across a spectrum of industries. All of the survey participants were involved in some aspect of the IoT. Among the key findings:
- Human factors matter. It may sound like a cliché, but the phrase “people, process, and technology” is at the center of IoT success. “Human factors like culture, organization, and leadership are critical,” the report observes. The top consideration is collaboration between IT and line-of-business leaders. Overall, 54 percent cited this as the most important factor for achieving results, while 49 percent cited a technology-focused culture and 48 percent emphasized IoT expertise.
- Companies should not go it alone. Sixty percent of respondents stated that IoT initiatives often look good on paper but prove much more difficult than anyone expected. Key issues respondents mentioned include time to completion, limited internal expertise, quality of data, integration across teams, and budget overruns. The study states that the most successful organizations engage the IoT partner ecosystem at every stage, implying that strong partnerships throughout the process can smooth out the learning curve.
- Data is everything. Integrators and others who build out IoT systems must focus on delivering value through data. Cisco’s study finds that 73 percent of participants are using data from IoT projects to improve their business. The top three benefits? Improved customer satisfaction (70 percent), operational efficiencies (67 percent), and improved product/service quality (66 percent). In addition, 39 percent witnessed improved profitability.
- Failure is not your enemy. It’s tempting to view failure as a drain on time and financial resources, and it can be a source of frustration and finger pointing as well. A more effective way to approach IoT projects, however, is to view failure as a form of R&D—and a step on the path to success. “Taking on these IoT projects has led to another unexpected benefit: 64 percent agreed that learnings from stalled or failed IoT initiatives have helped accelerate their organization’s investment in IoT,” the report notes.
It’s wise for channel pros to focus on these four areas when approaching clients and building out project frameworks. Many IoT projects straddle the line between success and failure. Looking past the devices part of your solution and toward gathering data that people can use to improve outcomes will lead to a successful IoT project.
Samuel Greengard is a business and technology writer based in West Linn, Ore. He is the author of The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).